30 January, 2018
STOCKHOLM-IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, who turned a small-scale mail order business started on his family's farm into a furniture empire by letting customers piece together his simple and cheap furniture themselves, has died at age 91.
Known for his humble style and nearly religious devotion to simplicity and efficiency, Kamprad founded IKEA at the tender age of 17 and first sold matchboxes, fish, Christmas tree decorations, and pens.
Despite his lack of operational role within the company after 1988, IKEA noted, Kamprad served as a senior adviser in the years that followed, offering many contributions to employees during the span of his career.
Since then the IKEA concept - keeping prices low by letting the customers assemble the furniture themselves - offers affordable home furnishings at stores across the globe.
The BBC points out that "Kamprad is reported to have come up with the idea of flat-pack furniture [in 1956] after watching an employee remove the legs from a table in order to fit it into a customer's vehicle". Two years later, Kamprad opened Ikea's first store in Almhult, south of his hometown.
First distributed in 1951, Ikea now sends 250 million copies of its catalogue to more than 50 markets in 30 languages, putting it alongside the Bible as one of the world's most popular books.
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Ikea's global revenue was $45 billion in 2017, CNN reported.
A Swedish flag flies at half mast outside an IKEA store in Stockholm, Sweden.
Kamprad later said that it was "a part of my life which I bitterly regret" but his "Nazi past followed [him] ... to his death", Derek Hawkins reports for the Washington Post, detailing both the charges against him as well as his - and others' - defense of what he claimed was an indiscretion of his youth. The company name was an acronym of his initials, the name of his farm, Elmtaryd, and his town of origin, Agunnaryd.
Ingvar Kamprad was at a trade fair in Italy in the 1940s when he had an idea.
Kamprad was known to lead a frugal life and drive a simple Volvo vehicle well into his later years.
He moved to Switzerland in the late 1970s to avoid paying Swedish taxes, which at the time were the highest in the world.
Sweden was neutral in World War II, and its Nazi party remained active after 1945. "It's in the nature of Småland to be thrifty", he had said in a 2016 documentary.